*** The following contains spoilers from Sunday night’s Game of Thrones episode, “Book of Stranger.” ***
David French pointed out two weeks ago that Game of Thrones — venturing for the first time beyond George R. R. Martin’s published material, and seemingly in a rush to wrap the series down (the eighth season will reportedly be the last; we’re currently in season six) — is eliminating stray storylines and excess characters at a feverish pace.
This trend continued last night in this season’s fourth episode, “Book of Stranger,” which saw Ramsay Bolton once again dispatching a series regular. Osha, who began the show as a wildling hunter but transformed into the young Starks’ protector, was captured by allies of Bolton and then wiped from the series — Ramsay promptly returned to peeling his apple. As David suggested, expect to see more of this.
“Book of Stranger” was heavy on reunions, as two of the Stark siblings were (finally) reunited. The sight of Sansa and Jon Snow embracing was one viewers had to think was coming eventually — but to this point, every time the show hinted at a Stark reunion, something really bad would happen to keep the family apart. For those waiting to see if what’s left of the Stark kids would ever be reunited and return home to claim Winterfell from their enemies, this was certainly a payoff. And we saw a renewed purpose for Snow — now the former Night’s Watch lord commander, and Melisandre’s “chosen prince.” Going forward, a Ramsay Bolton/Jon Snow showdown seems inevitable, but it would also be a perplexing turn for a character who has spent most of the previous five seasons avoiding the wars of Westeros, and who knows there are far worse enemies on the march than a bastard Bolton.
While a reunited Stark family seeks to retake Winterfell, the Greyjoy siblings (Theon and Yara) find themselves face to face once again as well. Theon — who seems to have passed the “Reek” moniker on to Chris Christie for good — ultimately reconciles with his sister, despite her initial skepticism over his return to the Iron Islands just as a new king or queen is about to be chosen. But you can’t help but wonder if Yara just happened to keep that certain part of Theon Ramsay had sent back to her — just in case he might want it back.
Margaery Tyrell, after spending several seasons pleading to see her brother (held captive by the High Sparrow), is finally allowed a visitation. The High Sparrow’s monologue was for me the high point of the episode primarily because of how actor Jonathan Pryce turns his attention from Margaery and past the camera, addressing the audience directly as he confesses his past sins and describes how he came to his own moment of enlightenment.
Pryce’s performance in almost breaking the fourth wall was an incredible moment that reinforced both how reassuring and menacing Pryce can be as an actor — and just how fascinating the High Sparrow’s convictions of morality can be. His crusade is personal: The Sparrow’s purpose isn’t about any of the other characters; it transcends them. The scene’s slow pan and the dialogue spoken directly at us reinforce that idea.
Speaking of the High Sparrow, while he was slowly turning Margaery, Cersei and Jamie began plotting to rid King’s Landing of him once and for all. Love or hate the Lannister clan, seeing Jamie act like the conniving bastard we knew him to be before he lost his sword hand was refreshing. Jamie was always one of the better villains on the show. His season-long atonement was a revelation — but it’s good to see that Lannisters still repay their debts.
Daenerys — in the sure-to-be-most-talked-about moment of the episode — turned the tables on her Dothraki captors by locking herself in their tent, and then burning it to the ground. With the assistance of her would-be rescuers, Daario and Jorah (the former now well aware of the dragon scale infecting the latter), Daenerys emerged from the flames to find the entire Dothraki army kneeling before her. It will be interesting to see her march on Meereen with a new army at her back — and to see what her reaction is to the slavery compromise Tyrion concluded with the leaders of the Sons of the Harpy.
The moment when Daenerys emerged from the flames seemed to (once again) foreshadow her ultimate ascent to the Iron Throne — if in fact that’s still what’s at stake in Westeros. But as season six moves along and the scheming continues, the throne — that final prize — almost seems an afterthought.